A modest proposal for mental health education

Well, I am back from my two-week trip to UCLA, and the research was successful (I can’t say what results there were, but they look very promising!), and I also saw some old friends that I hadn’t seen or spoken to since 2008-2009.

In the course of my interactions with people, I had a few negative interactions. Because I haven’t slept much lately my brain has seized upon these relatively trivial interactions and has blown them up entirely out of proportion to their real importance, and I am waiting patiently for a chance to go home and nap and put my brain to rest.

It occurs to me that my tendency to seize upon these sorts of ideas is not unique to me, though I may have it to a more extreme extent than most (and so I review what I say and do to a greater extent). When I’m very tired, like today, I tend to slip up a lot, so I’m pleased that I haven’t had too many interactions and will soon get a chance to go home and rest. However, people who haven’t been diagnosed with my condition, or who simply aren’t able to control themselves to the extent that I usually can, probably get lost in their angst-ridden thinking and behave badly because they have no idea how to control it or how to make themselves feel better/ more rational.

I wonder if it would be useful to train people in psychology starting much earlier than we do, in childhood classrooms? So many people suffer from varying degrees of mental instability or neurosis, and most have not been diagnosed- most likely from a lack of resources placed in mental health care. Only the very severe mental health cases get the attention they need, and unless a person has a lot of financial resources it is often difficult to get treatment for less severe conditions. Widespread awareness of one’s own thought processes, and an ability to analyze one’s thinking and identify irrational, damaging thought processes and deal with them in a healthy way would benefit society so much. It would be wonderful if these skills, which are essential to good mental health and stability, could be taught in schools. One can claim this is up to parents to teach, but many parents do not have these skills, or enough background knowledge to be able to convey them effectively.

Awareness of mental health issues in others would also help remove some of the stigma and the often well-meaning, but damaging, attempts to problem-solve conditions like depression. “Just buck up” and “be an adult” are not really what depressed people need to hear. I don’t often suffer from depression, but when I do I am extremely difficult to be around, and depression affects 1 in 10 adults in America. Coping skills for dealing with other people’s mental illnesses that are widely taught would also be of huge, huge benefit to society.

It seems to me that North American society spends a lot of time focusing on maintaining physical health in the human body- why not spend the same amount of time focusing on mental health?


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